Don’t Pray

One of the best things I’ve read recently on prayer in a long time, found here. Joe Thorn quotes from and comments on a book he’s reading by Paul Miller.

My prayer life is so spotty largely because I get frozen when it comes to what to say or figuring out what I really want to pray about or how I’m really feeling about something rather than praying as a natural extension of my life and thoughts without all the constant metaprocessing and backstepping and analyzing. And deep down I find I’m also looking for an experience each time – some moment of peace or clarity or otherness that lets me know I’ve connected with God rather than just blabbered at the windshield. Miller has this to say:

Don’t hunt for a feeling in prayer. Deep in our psyches we want an experience with God or an experience in prayer. Once we make that our quest, we lose God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him, you enjoy him. He is, after all, a person.

I’ve heard the exhortation to be natural in prayer, to speak as I would to a friend rather than composing religious-sounding language. And I’ve heard the one that says don’t go experience-hunting. This though somehow strikes me differently. It goes beyond just prayer for me – it challenges my perception of God. If I’m looking primarily to experience God, then to me he is an event or a set of circumstances. If I’m looking to get to know him, then he is free to be a person, and experience is only a part of the relationship. Joe quotes Miller again as saying,

In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go.

With a relationship it’s like spending all your time thinking and discussing how the relationship is going rather than just having it. There are downsides to being überanalytical when there’s life to be lived.

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